Ross J. Pudaloff
Wayne State University
Encountering Others
Course Description

Encountering Others might/can serve as a description of modernity, the major theme of the Americas, the consequence of imperialism and colonialism, the key question both of history and historiography, the central issue of cultural studies, the problematic of individual development, and so on.  Such categories as race, religion, gender, age, and economic and social status only begin to name the ways in which others are perceived and out of which identities are constructed.  All such encounters, including that with the self, inevitably exist as discourse and, as such, bring otherness into the identities of all involved. Encountering others, moreover, is inevitably assymetric and can occur in a variety of ways that range from physical meetings to the explicitly imagined.  In all cases, though, the encounters are framed by the culturally derived assumptions and semiotic systems that participants bring.  Furthermore, means of representation for self and others are available unequally because participants can only read the others according to an already-existing hermeneutic while privileged systems of representation (maps, writing, specific languages) already encode determinations of identity and meaning.  Thus the literary and interpretive aspects of texts are primary if one wishes to understand the ways in which others meet others.

The seminar will engage many, if not all, of these topics by examining some of the varied discourses produced during and as a consequence of the confrontations of Europeans and EuroAmericans with (primarily) inhabitants of the Americas and to the discursive practices brought to and developed from these experiences.  By discourse I include practices of representation, technologies of knowledge and power, problematics of translation, assertions of legitimacy, displays of power, systems of exchange, forms of recognition and/or denial of otherness, categories of knowledge (e.g., history, law, ethics), and genres, especially those that are implicated in the colonial project (e.g. captivity and slave narratives and the novel).  All these are inflected through the multitude of categories in which the discourses of encounters exist.  As well, we shall discuss how many of the tropes that mark the relationship between narrators and their others in these texts evoke bodies, in particular the danger that the EuroAmerican body will be in some sense disfigured or consumed.  Finally, attention will be paid to the ways in which the previously silent (a larger category than apparent at first glance as the example of Bernal Diaz indicates) enter into discourse, reconstituting it as it constitutes them.

Todorov's The Conquest of America provides a set of propositions for thinking about these encounters.  We will use to furnish a model for the texts to test and no doubt alter.  In order to make the best use of Todorov, we will begin with texts of Spanish incursions (Diaz, Las Casas, Cabeza de Vaca).  We will move from the Spanish texts to narratives concerned with those British possessions that became the United States.  We will restrict ourselves to texts before 1860, with an emphasis on those from the era of discovery/conquest ("discovery" is retained because it is central to the perception of Europeans and EuroAmericans) and from the colonial and early national periods in which encountering others is particularly prominent thematically and formally.  Some of these are
familiar to us--e.g., Rowlandson's narrative.  Others, however, are much less so (e.g. Williams's narrative, the Life of Brainerd, though their continuing existence in print ought to remind us that more groups than the academy have an interest in these encounters and texts.  Finally, we will look at some of the now-canonical "literature" (Cooper, Sedgwick, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne) that made use of earlier narratives and discourses of encountering others.  Most of the texts, though, will be drawn from the earlier periods.  The order is roughly chronological in large part because texts invoke as well as evoke earlier textualizations of these encounters.  I apologize, sort of, for the reading load.

Students are responsible for a research report and a seminar paper (presumably the outgrowth of the research).  The report and paper can begin with a text or texts we've read in class or can deal with other texts from this period and setting that deal with the issue of encountering others--e.g., other descriptions/histories of the Americas, genres such as the captivity narrative or Indian autobiography, retellings of the discovery/conquest such as Prescott's, literary and/or polemical adaptations of encounters (the various versions of King Philip's War, for instance), texts that reset the encounter with others as one between ethnic groups of European origin, and so on.  A list of suggested topics for the report and paper will be distributed.  As well, I will distribute a bibliography of relevant recent scholarship.


Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola.  Women's Indian Captivity Narratives.  Penguin Classics.
Bartolomé de Las Casas.  A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Penguin Classics.
Bernal Diaz.  The Conquest of New Spain.  Penguin Classics.
Cyclone Covey, ed. and trans.  Cabeza De Vaca's Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America.
     University of New Mexico Press.
John Williams. The Redeemed Captive.  Applewood Books.
Jonathan Edwards, ed.  Life and Diary of David Brainerd.  Baker Books.
Olaudah Equiano.  Narrative. in Gates, ed.  Classic Slave Narratives. Signet/Mentor.
James Fenimore Cooper.  The Last of the Mohicans.  Oxford.
Catherine Maria Sedgwick. Hope Leslie.  Rutgers.
Barry O'Connell. On Our Own Ground : The Complete Writings of William Apess, a Pequot. Univ.
    of Massachusetts Press.
Edgar Allan Poe, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.  Penguin.
Herman Melville.  Typee.  Penguin
                              "Benito Cereno."  Four Short Novels Bantam.
Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The Marble Faun.  Penguin Classics.
Tzvetan Todorov. The Conquest of America : The Question of the Other.  Harper Perennial


Week 1--January 11, 1999
Introduction--"Language is the perfect instrument of empire"
        The human costs of colonialism in the Americas
        Thinking about Early American Literature and the History of Criticism
        Beginning with Discourse as representation, commodity, exchange, power, etc.
        Reasons for/principles of text selection and a bit about the texts.

Week 2--January 25, 1999
        Todorov, The Conquest, pp. 3-201, 245-54.
        Diaz, Conquest

Week 3--February 1, 1999
        Las Casas, Destruction
        Covey, Cabeza de Vaca

Week 4--February 8, 1999
        Todorov, The Conquest, pp. 202-41.
        Derounian-Stodola, "Rowlandson"
        Williams, The Redeemed Captive

Week 5--February 15, 1999
        Edwards, Life and Diary of Brainerd

Week 6--February 22, 1999
        Equiano, Narrative

Week 7--March 1, 1999
        Derounian-Stodola, "Jemison"

Week 8--March 8, 1999
        Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

Week 9--March 22, 1999
        Apess, "A Son of the Forest," pp. 1-99; "Eulogy on King Philip,"  pp. 275-310
        Research Reports

Week 10-March 29, 1999
        Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
        Research Reports

Week 11-April 5, 1999
        Poe, Pym

Week 12-April 12, 1999
        Melville, "Benito Cereno"

Week 13-April 19, 1999
        Melville, Typee

Week 14-April 26, 1999
        Hawthorne, The Marble Faun
        Papers Due

Week 15--May 3, 1999
        Papers Absolutely Due